Using Homemade Ingredients: Apple Cider Syrup

As with any newly made syrup, the problem instantly becomes how do I use it? Fortunately since apples are so versatile, the potential applications seem endless--apple and citrus, apple and spice, apple and savory, apple and nutty. My only concern was that apples too often share the spotlight or simply act as the backdrop; they are hardly ever the star of the show. I was worried that somehow the syrups would not be robust enough and would get lost in the cocktail glass. In practice, this turned out to be a viable issue. While both syrups are quite robust on their own--the mulled apple cider syrup is especially delicious on oatmeal--in cocktails, the apple flavor was easily overwhelmed. But with some experimentation, I did have some rather surprising successes.

I have two "go-to" recipes when I am trying to figure out how to incorporate a new syrup into a cocktail: the old fashioned and the gimlet. Both allow the syrup's flavors to shine because there are fewer ingredients involved. Of course, the way that the syrup interacts with the specific flavor profile of a gin becomes the central issue. Because gin and apples in general work well together, I decided to start there. After discovering the relative delicacy of the syrup, I opted for a more traditional London dry gin. While an absinthe rinse is not usually included in a gimlet, it does add a nice element here that works indirectly to highlight the apple flavors.  


2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce apple cider syrup

Express the oils of a thick lime peel into the shaker. Combine  the peel with the other ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into a chilled absinthe-rinsed cocktail glass.

Notes on Ingredients: I used Whitley Neil gin and Pacifique absinthe.

The old fashioned seemed the perfect vehicle for the mulled apple cider syrup. The syrup's combination of fruit and spice propelled me toward barrel-aged spirits. Because of the many successful drinks pairing rye and apple brandy, rye was my first choice. But then again, I don't need an excuse to make a rye old fashioned. Unfortunately, this was not the best choice, as the apple flavors were easily overwhelmed. Though the drink was lovely, it could have just as easily been made with a cinnamon or clove syrup--not the ideal situation. I then tried brandy and a mellow rum and both were quite successful. At first the spices in the syrup came across strongest, but over time hints of apple started to peek out.

Variation on a Rum Old Fashioned

2 ounces rum
2 teaspoons mulled apple cider syrup
1 dash orange bitters

Combine syrup and bitters in a rocks glass. Add a large chunk of ice and pour in the rum. Stir to combine. Garnish with an orange peel. Optional: add an absinthe rinse to the glass before building the drink. 
 Notes on Ingredients: I used Plantation 5-year rum, Fee's barrel-aged orange bitters. I rinsed the glass with Pacifique absinthe.

As I started experimenting, I quickly discovered just how delicate my syrups were. For example, aquavit's more savory anise and caraway worked really well with the mulled syrup's warm cloves and cinnamon, but the apple completely disappeared. The apple cider syrup only acted as a sweetener. So I decided to utilize more delicate flavors. Gin softened with vermouth or sherry was much more successful. And a friend of mine recently discovered that the mulled apple cider syrup added a nice touch when used in a Manhattan. Adding vermouth or dry ingredients seemed to be the key to creating a successful cocktail.

Touch of Apple

1 1/2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce manzanilla sherry
1/2 ounce apple cider syrup
1/4 ounce Calisaya liqueur 
 Combine ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Notes on Ingredients: I used No. 3 gin and Lustau dry manzanilla sherry.